Why some people still get flu after being vaccinated

Why some people still get flu after being vaccinated

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Although Knoxville doctors say they're seeing flu cases in some of their patients who received the flu vaccine, they also say it's not unusual.

Nurses at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville say flu is on the rise, which is common this time of year.

Seven-year-old Jahnulie Weste was doing homework Friday in the emergency room instead of heading to class. When asked how she was feeling, she just gave a thumbs down.

"She's here because she's been having flu symptoms for the past four days. She's been vomiting, fever going up and down, and I think she's probably dehydrated at this moment," explained her Mom, Jacqueline Weste.

Jahnulie did not get the flu vaccine. "Every year she gets it and she still ends up here. So, for me, it wasn't different. I say FluMist, she end up having pneumonia so I feel like she's going to end up having it anyway," her mother said.

Ten-year-old Anna Benoit was at Children's Hospital for the second time in a week. She tested positive for flu on Monday. 

Anna did not get a flu vaccine either. "I have these really bad chest pains when I cough and stuff, and like my throat hurts and my ear hurts," she said.

Anna's mom has decided next year she won't skip the flu shot. "I think it would have helped and at least shortened it if she had gotten it," said Leigha Benoit.

Doctors say even some people who received flu vaccine are getting the flu, but the director of infection control at Children's Hospital, Darci Hodge, said that's not unusual.

"There's always a strain out there that we haven't identified yet or we don't have a vaccine for because it's not in our community," Hodge said.

"So you can get a flu vaccine, a flu shot, and be protected from the types of flu the vaccine covers, but if there is a strain out there that's not in the current season flu shot, you may get it. But you don't get it as severe as you would have if you had gotten a flu shot," Hodge said.

Nurses say the worst cases of flu are often in the youngest children because they get dehydrated very quickly.

At the first signs your child may have the flu, take them to a doctor or hospital for treatment.

The lab at East Tennessee Children's Hospital is actually seeing fewer confirmed cases of flu in children than the same period last year. From October 2009 to the end of January 2009 there were 188 positive flu screens. In the same time period this year, there have been 137.

West Knoxville internist Dr. Rebecca Jackson tells 6 News that Tamiflu and other medications seem to be helping patients, and those who are still getting the flu after a flu vaccine, are getting over it more quickly.

"We've not seen any cases that have not improved when we've started the patients on medicine for influenza," Dr. Jackson said.

"We have seen a few cases where they have gotten the flu shot and gotten a very mild case of the flu. I have to think that if they hadn't gotten the flu shot, they may be a lot sicker," Dr. Jackson added.

Each year, the flu vaccine protects against three strains of flu which research suggests will be the most common.

Officials with the East Tennessee Regional Health Department in Knoxville said they have not had any reports of resistance to the flu vaccine.

Flu cases are currently on the rise across the country. The CDC reports the flu is elevated in an eight-state region that includes Tennessee. However, most of the cases in the Volunteer State are moderate.

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